Since its inception in January 2020, the Eurocities Children and Young People’s working group has been working online to exchange best practice around child poverty. Created and chaired by Leeds City Council, we intended to host a study visit to Leeds this month to look at food poverty, digital access and mental health, and how these issues have been impacted by COVID-19. Current circumstances meant that the event had to take place online, with cities from around Europe joining us for a Virtual Mutual Learning visit to Leeds.
The event was kicked off by Councillor Fiona Venner, Executive Member for Adults’ and Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships. She spoke about the moral imperative to combat child poverty and to ensure that all children were given access to food during the school holidays. Leeds based charities Barca and Kidz Klub described their activities to keep children active, healthy and connected to their communities.
The city of Milan leads a global network of food cities, and their city representatives explained how food banks and school canteens work together to distribute food relief to households. Part of the effort to distribute food and encourage social action in communities is Milan’s “floating food basket” project.
The second day of the mutual learning visit looked at the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health. Professor Anthony Maher from Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie School of Education set out a compelling argument for cities across Europe to work collaboratively to develop their own culturally appropriate policies to address mental health. With over 332 million children worldwide having suffered the effects of lockdown, the main topic of discussion was how to address this, with the city of Madrid reminding us that “young people have the answer, they just need the right question.”